Robert Doade, an associate professor of philosophy at Trinity Western University, in British Columbia, is among those academics who believe Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other forms of social media may be distracting students and causing them anxiety. So Doade challenges students by offering them a 5 percent extra credit bonus if they will abstain from all social and traditional media for the three month semester of his philosophy course, and keep a journal about the experience. Out of a class of around 35 students, only about 12 will try for the extra credit and by the end of the semester only between 4 and 6 are still "media abstinent."
Higher Education Quick Takes
The chancellor of City College of San Francisco, Don Griffin, has revived his plan to have donors "sponsor" courses that would otherwise be eliminated due to budget cuts, and this time he may win over a previously skeptical board. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Griffin offered a new version of the plan, and that board members were receptive because it involves an administrative review, with the chancellor making the final decision on whether a sponsorship would be appropriate. The new plan also would not assure anyone of the right to add a name to a course title. As originally discussed, the plan would simply have allowed anyone to donate $6,000 to become the official sponsor of a course. Amid California's budget disaster, the college is being forced to eliminate more than 800 courses and the idea was to save as many of them as possible. Objections from trustees when the plan was first discussed centered on fears that, for example, a tobacco company might sponsor a public health course.
Do-it-yourself tuition collection by professors apparently doesn't go over well at Florida Gulf Coast University. The Fort Myers News-Press reported that the university has fired a professor, Donald Lounsbury, after an audit found that he had collected cash and checks from students for payments for his interview and interrogation criminal justice courses and deposited them directly in his own account, not a university account. Citing documents obtained through public records requests, the News-Press reported that Lounsbury defended the practice by saying that he was simply expediting the process by which he would have later been reimbursed for supplies he purchased and payments he would be owed for teaching the courses. In November, he was suspended, and later placed on unpaid leave for a period, after students reported that he touched anatomically accurate mannequins in a sexual manner. The mannequins were part of a class on investigating deaths. Lounsbury's lawyer said that some students would contest the charges related to the mannequins and that his client's firing suggests that he has "political enemies at the university."
The digital era provides researchers with greatly enhanced ability to analyze and share data, but a new report warns that technology also makes it easier for data to be distorted. The report, from the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, recommends that research institutions ensure that every investigator receives appropriate training on managing data responsibly. Further, the report urges these institutions, along with professional societies, journals and research sponsors, to develop standards for ensuring the integrity of research data and specific data-management guidelines to account for new technologies.
Ward Churchill is hoping that the jury that heard his suit against the University of Colorado can persuade the judge to change his mind. The jury found for Churchill, but lacked the authority under state law to give him back his job as a tenured professor of ethnic studies at the Boulder campus. The judge then threw out the jury's finding, giving Churchill nothing. The judge found the findings by the university that Churchill engaged in research misconduct to be credible, and the processes used by the university to have had reasonable due process protections. But Churchill's lawyer has now filed a statement from one of the jurors, saying that the jury wanted Churchill reinstated, The Denver Post reported. "A majority of the jurors thought that the academic misconduct charges were not valid," Bethany Newill, a juror, wrote. "We felt that the procedures afforded to Churchill by the University of Colorado, before his termination, were biased."
The U.S. Education Department proposed regulations today to carry out new federal laws governing student loans that were enacted when Congress renewed the Higher Education Act last summer. The proposed rules, which were published in this morning's Federal Register, emerged from two sets of negotiations that the Education Department sponsored last winter to solicit guidance about how to carry out provisions in the Higher Education Opportunity Act related to student loans. Because negotiators reached consensus on virtually all aspects of the student loan provisions, the proposed rules -- which cover such areas as loan discharge, repayment plans, and a set of disclosure and other requirements for lenders and colleges in the federal and private student loan programs -- should be relatively unsurprising.
President Obama held a press conference Wednesday evening to promote his health care proposals, but he received a question about the recent arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard professor who was handcuffed at his own home after police investigated a report of someone (Gates himself) trying to break into his own home when the door was jammed. Obama joined many others who have criticized the arrest and related it to the trend of racial profiling. He said: "I think it’s fair to say, No. 1, any of us would be pretty angry. No. 2, the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home. And No. 3, what I think we know separate and apart from this incident is there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by police disproportionately. That’s just a fact.”
Duke University on Wednesday announced it would shut down one session of its Talent Identification Program -- a summer enrichment program for youths -- after 25 of the 260 participants were diagnosed with the flu, presumed to be the H1N1 virus. None of the students are hospitalized or in serious danger, but Duke officials said they acted to avoid spreading the virus to other students in the program.
Secondhand smoke exposure is high among college students, a study in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research has found. The study analyzed 4,223 undergraduates at 10 colleges and universities in North Carolina, and found that 83 percent reported exposure to secondhand smoke at least once in the past week. The research was conducted by scientists at Wake Forest University. A statement by Mark Wolfson, lead author on the study, said: "While some college campuses are smoke free, others have virtually no restrictions on smoking, not even in the residence halls. There is a growing national movement to move away from that, but it still very much varies by campus. In this first study to evaluate SHS exposure among college students, we were really kind of floored to see how many, and how frequently, students are exposed to it."
At least six people were shot Wednesday night at an event at Texas Southern University honoring a Houston rapper, The Houston Chronicle reported. At least one of those shot attended the university, and none of the injuries are life-threatening, a university spokeswoman said. The event was outside and had been billed as a block party.